Introduction to “22 Poems”
It’s been a long-deferred project of mine to go into the garage and retrieve the two crumbling cardboard boxes that contained the poems I wrote as a young man and save (at least for a while) the best of them from oblivion. Which I’m happy to report I’ve just done.
I grew up in a small town in Arkansas. I’d planned to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a lawyer, but that changed when I went away to college. My freshman English teacher loved my compositions, and told me I had talent, and in a sort of epiphany, I realized that a writer was what I was destined to be. I got two degrees in English, then pieced together a meager living for a few years with journalism and teaching jobs. I wrote whenever I got the chance, but the poems and short stories I assiduously sent to magazines were all returned to me in the stamped, self-addressed envelopes I’d dutifully provided. Ready for something new, I lit out for California in 1981 with my boyhood friend Billy Bob Thornton to try to make it as a screenwriter in Hollywood.
In Los Angeles, it was all about the movie business, and I left literature behind me. But wherever I went over the years, the cardboard boxes went with me. It’s been interesting, going through them. They had remained undisturbed for decades. There were hundreds of poems and dozens of short stories there, along with two novels, one of which was extremely bad and the other only moderately so. I remembered most of the better poems, many of them verbatim, but some poems I’d forgotten completely. I’d hoped that enough of them were good that I could make a book out of them. They mostly ranged from bad to mediocre, but I was pleasantly surprised that I sufficiently liked enough of them that I had the material for two books. The first one will come out next year and be entitled Sunset on the Ventura Freeway, and then will be followed eventually by The Labyrinth of Desire.
In the meantime, I’m presenting a selection of my poems here. Twenty seemed about the right number to me, but since my lucky number’s 22 (because I was born on May 22nd), I decided to go with that. When I typed the final poem, then glanced down at the bottom of the computer screen to see the word count, guess what? It was 2222! A double dose of luck is always welcome.